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Researchers at UNC-Chapel Hill Develop Terminator-Inspired 3D Printer that Can Materialize Objects from Pools of Liquid

3d printer

Image credit: Screenshot of Carbon3D video

While some scientists regard movies as their muse for further creation, other resort to nature for encouragement of new invention. Inspired by “Back to the Future,” researchers have invented a hoverboard already. Furthermore, at present, they have designed a Terminator 2-style 3D printer, which could be able to produce impressive objects out of a pool of liquid that appears impossible previously.

It is reported in Science that the latest printing technique is product of the startup Carbon3D, which is headed by chemist Joseph DeSimone based in California. Its primary appearance was made at the recent TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) conference in Vancouver. As described by the company, it is t100 times faster than conventional 3D printing for such novel technology to manufacture products on a large scale. In addition, by using additive manufacturing processes, it could also produce objects in the way to build up successive layers of material.

At the conference’s presentation, it took only ten minutes for Carbon3D’s printer to produce a plastic ball. As DeSimone confirmed, it would 10 hours for traditional printers to do so. However, the company does not only boast about the speed of its new printer, it is also proud that this revolutionary technique could craft geometries that were not achievable before. If such characters could be approved for more applications, this process could be more useful in different industrial sections, like aviation and medicine.

Instead of relying on the layering approach that is familiar to us, this technique, known as Continuous Liquid Interface Production, short termed as CLIP, is focused on utilization of photochemistry. Designs come from a bath of liquid resin whereby the media is solidified into the desirable object by the means of combining light with oxygen. Therefore, light is applied for hardening the resin, whereas oxygen prevents this process, so it make it possible to produce complex objects flicking between the two in a precise way. More importantly, as it is so fine, the designs could have microscopic properties, which would enable to produce something which is around 20 microns, that is one-quarter the thickness of a piece of paper.

As DeSimone said, after new study on with the whole approach to 3D printing as well as the chemistry and physics associated with the process, his team had created a novel technology, which could be capable of producing parts much quickly than traditional techniques, because they actually make parts ‘growing’ in a pool of liquid. Talking of the future use of their technique, DeSimone said that it would be able to produce stronger objects with unique geometries, for example, it could produce the personalized stents for the patients with weakened arteries.

While CLIP is just capable of make products out of polymer-based materials for the time being, the company has made their claims that it could be applied to different kinds of materials. Therefore, the company is now making efforts to identify the suitable ones. As predicted by Rob Schoeben, chief marketing officer of Carbon3D, this novel printer would be available on the market by the end of the year.

Source: ScienceNatureUniversity of North Carolina and BBC News

Journal reference: Tumbleston, John R., et al. “Continuous liquid interface production of 3D objects.” Science 347.6228 (2015): 1349-1352.